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Because of the success of the book and subsequent Oscar nominated 1991 film, the remarkable story of how The Commitments came to be published has been lost.

Roddy Doyle and a friend, John Sutton, initially self published the novel in 1987, funded by a £5,000 loan from Doyle’s bank manager.

Doyle remembers, “If I’d wanted £5,000 for a car there’d have been no problem but because it was for a book the bank manager insisted on a business plan. There was more fiction in the business plan we submitted than the book itself.”

The initiative shown in self publishing won The Commitments reviews in leading newspapers but it wasn’t well received by Irish music bible Hot Press. “There was a really hostile review in Hot Press and a lot of music press people didn’t like the book.”

One of the 4,000 books printed had, however, found its way into the hands of one influential reader.

Doyle says, “Elvis Costello lived here in Dublin at the time and he wrote an article and said “If you want to know what it was like being in a band when I was a kid, just read The Commitments.” I didn’t know he was going to write that, so that was a great day.”

After that the book built into a cult hit and was picked up by Random House.

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Chris McDonnell
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